Other teams have streaked past the Bucs

by Gary Shelton on January 17, 2019 · 2 comments

in general

Is Arians finally the right hire for the Bucs?

Thursday, 4 a.m.

Think of them as an old jalopy, smoking and spewing as it putters down the highway.

It's going slow, and other vehicles are whizzing past. Parts fall off, and the wheels wobble, and the engine sounds as if it is about to conk out from the weariness of the journey. It is ahead of only a few other cars, but who knows how long that will last?

These are the Tampa Bay Bucs, and if the lack of speed doesn't make you pull your hair, then the lack of traction will.

That's the problem with the Bucs. In an ever-changing league, it is their tardiness you can count on. Other teams are in the passing

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lane, blowing their horns, yelling at them to get out of the way. Other teams get faster, better, more efficient. But the Bucs do not. They are a one-car demolition derby.

Take the Los Angeles Rams, the team that will take on the New Orleans Saints in this weekend's NFL title game.  As recently as 2016, three seasons ago, the Bucs were better than the Rams. The Rams were just 4-12, and everyone thought Jared Goff was a bust. The Bucs won nine that year.

And look at what has happened since. The Rams built muscle on their defense. Goff became a player.  Todd Gurley became a star. Sean McVay became a genius.

Take a look at the Chicago Bears. That same season, 2016, the Bears won three games, a third of the Bucs' total. But they drafted Mitch Trubisky and traded for Khalil Mack. This year, they won 12 games; the Bucs won five. Again.

Take the Dallas Cowboys. In 2015, the Cowboys won only four games, less than the six won by the Bucs. But then they added Dak Prescott and Zeke Elliott, and they reinvented themselves.

Take the Philadelphia Eagles. Once, the Bucs owned them. They beat them 45-17 in a head-to-head matchup, and they had seven wins to the Eagles' four in 2012. Then Doug Pederson happened.

And so it goes. In 2016, the Bucs were better than the Saints, and the Panthers, and the Chargers. In 2015, they were better than the Ravens and the Titans.

But other teams get better, and the Bucs start over.

It keeps happening. Other teams hire the right coach, or draft the right quarterback, and they capture momentum.

The Bucs have to hope that will finally happen with the hiring of former Cardinals' coach Bruce Arians. They need the right coach in the right spot, directing the right quarterback, who we still don't know about. They need smarts. They need stability.

Meanwhile, other franchises are in the passing lane.

Think about it. The Bucs were better than the Saints in 2016. They were better than the Colts and the Texans in 2017.  They were better than the Eagles, who just lost in the playoffs, in 2012. They were better than the Chiefs in 2012.

That's the NFL. Winning goes in cycles, and most teams latch onto the momentum and go on nice little runs for a while. Oh, New England is enternal (The Bucs haven't been better than the Patriots since 2005).

But, in a league that does more to help a team than any (a salary cap, a common draft, weighted scheduling, etc.), the Bucs have remained at the rear of the pack. It as if they are forever trying to jam a puzzle piece into a Rubik's Cube.

They are in a constant whirl when it comes to their head coaches (no, you can't blame them for firing Raheem Morris or Greg Schiano or Lovie Smith or Dirk Koetter, but you can quibble with them being hired). The quarterback keeps changing (yes, Jameis Winston is better than Josh Freeman, but not by as much as you would have hoped).

This time, perhaps the Bucs got it right. Certainly, they're due. Arians has had much more success in the NFL than Morris, or Koetter, or Schiano, although not as much as Smith, who didn't benefit from his year away from the league as much as you have liked).

In all, the Bucs have been the masters of dysfunction. They have wasted far too many good draft picks. They have signed too many duds in free agency. They have never captured momentum. Only Cleveland has a longer drought at making the playoffs; only six teams have gone longer since winning a playoff game.

This time, maybe it's different.

This time, maybe they have someone who can put high-test in the gas tank.

The Last Time

(When have the Bucs been better than other teams):

AFC East

New England            2005

Miami                         2010

Buffalo                        2016

N.Y. Jets                     2018

AFC North

Baltimore                   2015

Pittsburgh                  2003

Cleveland                   2017

Cincinnati                  2016

AFC South

Houston                     2017

Indianapolis             2017

Tennessee                 2015

Jacksonville             2016

AFC West

Kansas City              2012

L.A. Chargers          2016

Denver                      2010

Oakland                   2018

NFC East

Dallas                     2015

Philadelphia          2012

Washington           2016

N.Y. Giants            2017

NFC North

Chicago                 2016

Minnesota            2011

Green Bay            2008

Detroit                  2012

NFC South

New Orleans         2016

Atlanta                   2007

Carolina                2016

NFC West

L.A. Rams              2016

Seattle                     2010

San Francisco       2018

Phoenix                 2018


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